Depth Players Pittsburgh Penguins Should Chase in Free Agency
The Pittsburgh Penguins have a lot of work to do this offseason.
Filling the vacant general manager role with Jim Rutherford was one more objective they crossed off their list. Attention now has turned to finding Dan Bylsma’s replacement behind the bench.
While the front office is getting a facelift, I’m here to look into possible free-agent acquisitions that the team could make to better itself where it really matters: on the ice.
The Pens are tight on cap space, and many have speculated trading away and letting players walk in free agency, which would make room for some new faces.
The club is known for its fierce and speedy talent on offense but has lacked the personnel on the third and fourth forward lines to give the top six a break.
Defense isn't too much of a concern, but it could use some upgrades as well, especially if the team doesn't re-sign Brooks Orpik or Matt Niskanen.
In net, the club should focus not on finding a replacement for Marc-Andre Fleury but acquiring a mentor for him—and I know just the guy.
I will cover all this in the next four slides.
Brian Boyle, C
After the New York Rangers were crushed by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, center Brian Boyle stated to The Record’s Andrew Gross that he is looking for “more responsibility," which he won’t get as a Blueshirt.
Burying only six goals last season with the Rangers and averaging only 12 minutes, 46 seconds per game wasn't enough for him. He’ll be hoping clubs can see his true potential, which he showed in the 2010-11 season by scoring a career-high 21 goals and 35 points.
The Penguins' third-line center position was thinned out late in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs when Brandon Sutter stepped up to the anchor the second after Evgeni Malkin was moved to first-line winger. If the lines look anything like that at the beginning of next season, then signing Boyle would be a huge upgrade compared to having Joe Vitale or Marcel Goc playing there.
Boyle is a big-bodied specimen who can provide the Penguins with goals when given the right amount of playing time. He is a tremendous all-around athlete that the club should keep on its radar this summer.
Steve Ott, C
The Pittsburgh Penguins need 11-year vet Steve Ott on their roster because he will make them a pain to play against.
He can not only be quite the agitator but provides enough skill on both sides of the ice to make you question why a lot of people dislike the guy. Sure, he can go overboard on some of his hits, but he has my respect with his backbreaking work and love of the game. In 82 games with the Buffalo Sabres and St. Louis Blues, he found the back of the net nine times and posted 14 assists as well.
In addition to his offensive capabilities, Ott can play the bodyguard role for players like Sidney Crosby and James Neal. The closest thing the Pens have to a player like that is Tanner Glass, and that's not going to cut it.
Ott is willing to put his body on the line to protect his teammates and isn’t afraid to stand up to players or opposing coaches who get in his way. Add a decent offensive skill set, and you get one heck of a hockey player who is perfect for the Penguins.
Clayton Stoner, D
As much as I like Brooks Orpik, his time is almost certainly finished in a black-and-gold sweater. Injuries have slowed down his incredible tenure as a Penguin, and management will be looking for his replacement this offseason.
Clayton Stoner of the Minnesota Wild provides an imposing, stay-at-home style of hockey and can score as well. The Pens have a very dangerous defensive prospect pool, so he will be a great fix for the time being.
The 29-year-old British Columbia, Canada native can be a nice complement to the Penguins' more offensive-minded blueliners like Olli Maatta and Kris Letang. The Penguins are in need of a veteran defenseman to replace Orpik, and Stoner is the guy that the front office should target.
Martin Brodeur, G
Arguably the greatest goaltender in the game is finally nearing retirement, but he still wants to pump out one more year.
“It’s going to probably be my last year,” the 42-year-old said. “You never know what kind of energy I’m going to get from my decision, but I’m not looking for anything more than one year that’s for sure.”
The all-time leader in wins and shutouts also stated to Gulitti that he will be testing the free-agency market. It would be a sight for sore eyes to see Brodeur playing in a jersey other than that of the Devils, but the Penguins could benefit from signing the legend.
As we all know, current Pens goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has had some problems over the past years in net, primarily in the postseason. Bringing in a three-time Stanley Cup winner to offer sage advice is a great way to help “The Flower” blossom again.
The Penguins have a couple of special, young goalie prospects in their system such as Tristan Jarry and Matthew Murray, who could also benefit from some of Brodeur’s wisdom.
Brodeur isn’t the answer in net, but Fleury is. If the Penguins still want to continue with Fleury as their franchise goalie, then they must sign Brodeur as a mentor while they still can.
Stats courtesy of NHL.com.